SUNRAYSIA’S table grape harvest is near and growers are looking forward to a good season.

A freak storm last year severely damaged parts of last year’s crop and growers were again concerned on Tuesday last week as strong winds hit the region.

But Robinvale grower Nick Muraca said crops escaped any damage.

“There was no damage. Hail is the biggest worry for us, but fortunately we didn’t have any,” he said.

“Everything is looking magnificent. There hasn’t been any real extreme weather yet. In fact the rain we got about two weeks ago was absolutely perfect. There wasn’t enough sugar in the grapes so they didn’t split and the vines got a welcome drink.”

Mr Muraca said he expected to begin harvesting in mid-January although some growers might have “a nibble” at picking early varieties around new year.

Australian Table Grapes Association chief executive Jeff Scott said yields looked promising, there was good colour to the grapes and sugar levels were reaching desired levels.

“Return is increasing each year with grapes fetching around 20 cents a kilogram more than last year,” Mr Scott said. “Our fruit is in such demand and good quality fruit brings good prices.”

He urged growers to be patient before harvesting, allowing the fruit to reach the proper maturity levels.

“Some growers went too early last year and that hurt prices,” he said.

Mr Scott predicted that while a bright future lies ahead, challenges remained with water and labour availability and the price of electricity all potential threats to the success of the industry.

Original article by The Weekly Times

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